May 30, 2013

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The 2013 Memorial Tournament

By: Tyler Vespa

It has been 3 weeks since Tiger Woods posted his 4th victory of the season at the Players Championship. During his two-week rest we had another first-time winner in South Korea’s Sang Moon Bae, and 2008 US Ryder Cup fan favorite Boo Weekley, who earned his 3rd career PGA Tour victory at the Crowne Plaza Invitational with a 1 shot victory over Matt Kuchar. It was Weekley’s first win in 5 years. Well played Boo, hope to see you in another Ryder Cup soon.

Can 2011 winner Steve Stricker win another Memorial Tournament?

Atop the world rankings almost nothing has changed. Tiger and Rory McIlroy are still 1 and 2. Adam Scott and Justin Rose are still # 3 and # 4. However, last week on the European Tour was a bit of a shock, as 3 of the top 7 players in the world missed the cut at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Those 3 players were Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, and Graeme McDowell.

The 9th ranked player in the world Matt Kuchar climbed into 3rd place in the FedEx Cup behind Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker after his runner-up finish at the Crowne Plaza last week.

With that here are the 5 players who will contend for the trophy on Sunday afternoon:

  1. Tiger Woods: 4 wins in 7 starts in 13’, Defending champion, 5-time winner of this event. 3 other top 5’s at Muirfield Village.
  2. Matt Kuchar: Runner-up at Memorial in 2011, T8 in 2010, T5 in 2009, and T10 in 2008. Runner-up last week at Crowne Plaza.
  3. Justin Rose: 2010 Memorial Champ, 4 other top 15’s in this event. 4th ranked player in the world, was also runner-up here in 2008.
  4. Lee Westwood: T8 at the Players in his last start in the US and a T9 last week at Wentworth. He’s in that form that left him one shot out of a playoff in the 2008 U.S. Open.
  5. Ernie Els: 2004 Memorial Champ, 5 top 15’s in 7 starts in 13’. 10 top 15’s at the Memorial. Solid T6 last week at Wentworth.

I like Justin Rose to take home the hardware on Sunday. I would love to see him and Tiger in a playoff, but I think Rose beats him by a shot.

May 7, 2013

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Fred Couples Officially An All-Time Great

By: Joe Williams

Before Tiger Woods took the golf world by storm with his monstrous drives, it was John Daly and his extra-long backswing that was pounding the ball past everyone else. And before Daly hit the scene, Fred ‘Boom Boom’ Couples was the long-hitter on tour.

Fred Couples was the long-ball hitter before John Daly.

Now he’s a new member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

On the course, he was (and still is) such a cool customer that he looked like he didn’t have a care in the world. He never wore a glove and had a slow, but perfectly rhythmic swing that made him appear to be out there just having a good time. But that wasn’t the case.

He was a fierce competitor who was the PGA Tour Player of the Year and Vardon Trophy winner in back-to-back years. (1991-92)

Couples was also the first American to hit No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings and led team USA in several Ryder and Presidents Cups. He’s also got 15 PGA Tour wins (including the Players Championship twice) and eight on the Champions Tour. He’s won more than $27 million in his career.

But he’ll be forever remembered for his 1992 Masters win. And especially for his tee shot on the par 3 12th hole during the final round. His shot came up short of the green and was rolling down the slope towards Rae’s Creek. (A result that likely would have cost him the green jacket) But miraculously the ball hung up on the bank and Couples was able to get up-and-down on his way to a two-shot win over Raymond Floyd.

We’ll always wonder how many more wins he would have if he didn’t struggle with back problems over the years. But to this day, he still pops up from time to time and makes a run at another title. Especially at Augusta. Just last month he was near the lead for most of the Masters and had a shot at winning heading into the final round. He finished in a tie for 13th.

The 1992 Masters champion and 15-time winner on the PGA tour was inducted along with Colin Montgomerie, Ken Venturi, former European Tour Commissioner Ken Schofield and old timer Willie Park Jr.

December 14, 2012

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What Advantage Tom Watson brings as 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain

By: Tyler Vespa

On Thursday evening, 63-year-old Tom Watson became the next captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. The next Ryder Cup will be contested on September 26th-28th, 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland.

This decision went against the grain for the PGA of America. David Toms was thought to be a lock and fit the blueprint the PGA looks for, age of 45-50, past Ryder Cup experience, and a major champion.

Bottom line, the victory at Valhalla in 2008 wasn’t enough. Neither were the losses by a single point in 2010 at Celtic Manor and 2012 at Medinah, after a historic meltdown on the final day. Something had to change.

Steve Stricker was a part of the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup Team that lost in 2012.

With that I give you 5 reasons the selection of Tom Watson gives the U.S. an advantage in Scotland:

  1. He captained the last win on foreign soil in 1993 at the Belfry.
  2. He is a 5-time British Open Champion. 4 of those victories came in Scotland.
  3. He will have the respect of all his team members. He almost won the 2009 British Open again at Turnberry, but lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink.
  4. Won 3 Ryder Cups as member of Team USA (1977, 1981, 1983)
  5. Boasts a 10-4-1 record in Ryder Cup play. That winning percentage trails only one American; Arnold Palmer was 22-8-2.

The game of golf is built around an unmatchable sense of tradition. However, this was nothing short of “elementary” for the PGA of America. Europe has won 7 of the last 9 Ryder Cups played. Close and competitive doesn’t create results. Watson will accept nothing short of victory. With over 365 days until we arrive at Gleneagles, the face of American golf is in good hands.

September 24, 2012

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2012 Ryder Cup: Why the U.S. can bring the Cup back

By: Tyler Vespa

This weekend is the phenomenon in golf known as the Ryder Cup. The 39th matches will be held at Medinah Country Club just outside of Chicago beginning on Friday, with the conclusion as always on Sunday with the 12 singles matches.

The Americans will be seeking to retain the Cup from the European team, who took back the Cup in 2010 at Celtic Manor in Wales. Since 1985, the Europeans are 9-4 against the Americans. The Americans have won the matches only one other time since the 1999 “Miracle at Brookline”, that was at Valhalla in 2008.

Steve Stricker brings experience to the USA Ryder Cup team.

As we enter this pressure-packed week, the United States team has only one player on its squad raked outside the top 20 in the world, that player being Ryder Cup veteran Jim Furyk, who is ranked, 27th.

The Europeans have 3 of the top 4 players in the world with world number 1 Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald who is 3rd, and Lee Westwood who is 4th. After that their team has only one other player ranked in the top 10, that being Englishman Justin Rose who is raked 8th fresh off of a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Six of the final 8 members on the European team are currently ranked outside the top 20.

However, 9 of the 12 members on the European team have a winning record in Ryder Cup play. The European team has only one player making his Ryder Cup debut, that being Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts who won the Volvo World Match Play in Spain earlier this year. So, he does know match play, and has distance off the tee that could key the European side to victory.

The only weakness I see in this gritty American side is the fact that they have 4 Ryder Cup rookies. Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker have never experienced the cauldron that is the Ryder Cup. That being said, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson are now both major champions, and Brandt Snedeker is fresh off his win at the Tour Championship, which also earned him the FedEx Cup.  Jason Dufner, who had two wins in 2012, finished the season 4th in total driving, which is a combination of distance and accuracy and was also 4th in greens in regulation.

The experience of the American team with those 4 rookies in combination with the European team having 9 of their 12 players with a winning record in Ryder Cup play means the 39th edition of these matches should author one of the best finishes in the event’s history.

I’m taking the Americans on their home turf. The crowd at Medinah will help those rookies make a few more putts, and shake up the Europeans into one too many mistakes. The final tally: United States- 15   Europe- 13

May 12, 2011

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Golf world loses a legend

By: Joe Williams

The golf world lost one of its greats last week when Seve Ballesteros lost his battle with brain cancer at the age of 54.

He is one of the few that have held the number one spot in the world rankings. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999. He had 91 professional wins including five major championships.

It wasn’t just the wins that made Ballesteros great. It was the way he played to win that made him so memorable.

PGA President Allen Wronowski said in a statement: “In every generation, there appears one performer in sport who stands out above another for more than just ability alone. Seve Ballesteros, the gallant warrior from Pedrena, Spain, was the ultimate competitor. We were fortunate to have had him choose golf, where he did more than win championships, but proudly became an ambassador for our sport’s global appeal. Seve played with a rare combination of talent and heart, and his intensity endeared him to his teammates in the Ryder Cup, a competition that elevated his talent and leadership. As long as the pipes may play to call teams together for the Ryder Cup, they will play for Seve. We shall miss him dearly, and we mourn with his family and his many friends and fans throughout the world.”

Much like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods do today, Ballesteros routinely pulled off shots that others wouldn’t dare to try. As Tiger Woods said on Twitter, “Seve was one of the most talented and excited golfers to ever play the game. His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed. His death came much too soon.”

Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is what he did for European golf. He was the reason the Ryder Cup was expanded in 1979 to include continental Europe. He had a 20-12-5 record in eight appearances in the Ryder Cup and turned the tide in Europe’s favor. He teamed with fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal to form a nearly unbeatable team that became known as “The Spanish Armada”. He also led Europe to victory in 1997 as team captain. He is the epitome of the spirit of the Ryder Cup.

Today’s No. 1 player in the world, Lee Westwood, said on Twitter, “Seve made European golf what it is today.”

Seve was a unique blend of talent, charisma, desire and fearlessness. He hit numerous shots that will never be forgotten. And neither will he. Golf was never the same because of Seve and it will not be the same without him.